Nothing could have prepared me for what I had to do next. I ran into the woods and towards the soccer field, running uphill with only the vaguest sense of direction. In the dark, fallen branches and moss-covered rocks appeared. There was a fuliginous fog thick in the air giving an eerie feeling.
An omen of what was to come.
I tripped and fell repeatedly and worried but I have never felt so sure of doing something before, not ever since the accident. I ran. I ran like I had golden shoes.
Five minutes later, I was crouched behind the trees fifty feet from the soccer field. My heart thumped like a techno drum-beat.
The plan? Simple. Light and run.
It lit with a sizzle that reminded me of every July Fourth spent with her. I was mesmerised. The pooping started. The fireworks bangbangbang in sync with my heartbeat. When the firecrackers finished, I heard, “STOP OR I’LL CALL THE POLICE!”
I mentally cursed. I should have ran before the firecrackers ended. Regrettably, the distraction had failed. I doubled my speed, my heartbeat that of someone suffering from asphyxia. I avoided the brightly lit areas, moving zigzag, wishing that the overweight security guard would not catch up with me.
I finally reached the stairway. Taking two steps at a time, I traveled to the third floor science lab. As foreseen, the doors to the lab were locked. The fire extinguisher near the lab aided me in breaking in.
Upon entering, my nostrils were attacked by the fetid lab. I walked straight in, passing through the labyrinth of cabinets with bottles of chemicals to turn on the gas chamber.
I walked to a table bent down, took a Bunsen burner from the cabinet, connected it to the gas pipe and turned it on. The flames came alive and I was instantaneously hypnotised. I chortled and then came the waterworks.
The addiction began exactly a year ago today after I drove my best friend into a truck that had jackknifed. I was in the thousand -yard state of intoxication, we both were, but common sense had flew through the window when I entered the car turning me namby-pamby. She fell into a deep slumber to the highway’s monotonous lullaby while my right-side burnt.
For a year now, I have failed to comprehend my survival. I think of her every moment and see her in my dreams, the exact identical dream each night. Her weight falls dead on me, crushing my chest, stealing my breath, and she is cold and wet, like melting ice. Her head is split in half and a pink – gray sludge oozes from the fracture in her skull and drips down my face, and she reeks of formaldehyde and rotting meat.
Guilt, cold wrenching guilt had formed deep in my heart, thus the need for warmth.
Thus the need to finish the job.
I walked back to the cabinet full of chemical, picked bottles labelled with ethanol and splashed them around the lab. I got another bottle this time labelled methanol and watered myself with it. With a hand full of wooden splints and the Bunsen burner, the science lab is aflamed.
I laid on the table in the middle of the lab and waited for the fire to engulf me. Second thoughts began to leak into my head but I did not move an inch. As I watched the ceiling, I played back the accident, replaying how I killed someone and lost half myself in the span of seconds.
Footsteps and shouting resonated through the corridor as I had begun to lose consciousness but it was too late.
At least, I hoped I would have been dragged out to sea by the undertow before they arrived.
“Whether or not you believe in Fate comes down to one thing: who you blame when something goes wrong. Do you think it’s your fault – that if you’d tried better, or worked harder, it wouldn’t happen? Or do you just chalk it up to circumstance? I know people who’ll hear about the people who died, and will say it was God’s will. I know people who’ll say it was bad luck. And then there’s my personal favourite: They were just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Then again, you could say the same thing about me, couldn’t you?”
– Nineteen Minutes, Jodi Picoult